What is the significance of "sola fide"?

Sola fide is a Latin phrase that means "faith alone." It is one of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation. Sola fide points out that salvation is through faith, not works, as Ephesians 2:8-9 explains: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther considered sola fide so important that he called it "The article with and by which the church stands."

In addition to sola fide, the four other solas of the Protestant Reformation included:

1) Sola scriptura: Scripture alone; God gave us His Word through Scripture, not papal authority or sacred tradition

2) Sola gratia: Grace alone; salvation is provided by God's grace, not our works (Ephesians 2:8-9)

3) Solo Christo: Christ alone; Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6)

4) Sola Deo Gloria: glory of God alone; everything we do should be for God's glory (Colossians 3:17)

These five foundations stood as important beliefs during the development of the Protestant Reformation and continue to be vital today.

Sola fide is summarized well in Ephesians 2:8-9, but the concept is found throughout Scripture. For example, John 3:16 emphasizes faith in Jesus for eternal life: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 5:24 adds, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." Jesus also taught that, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent" (John 6:29).

The early church affirmed this teaching by Jesus and noted that His teachings echoed the earlier words of the Old Testament prophets: "To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:43). Romans 1:17 quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 in the Old Testament and says, "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" What the Old Testament law lacked was filled by faith in Jesus Christ, "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Romans 3:28). Philippians 3:9 declares faith is what makes us righteous: "… not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith."

Those who reject sola fide or salvation by faith alone hold to a Gospel based on works that differs from the teachings found in Scripture. In Galatians 1:9, Paul condemned such thinking as a false gospel: "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." Sola fide is an essential teaching of Scripture that was recovered by the Protestant Reformers, and remains vital to the lives of Christians and the life of the church today.

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